With phase-out of UK ISDN services by 2025 now a reality, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), is no longer considered a ‘fringe technology’ but, Hosted VoIP and SIP Trunks are the practical and proven successors to that aged, expensive and inflexible telecom’s service.
When you look for a new VoIP system, you’ll see two types of ‘supplier’ proposals;
Hosted VoIP services provide phone-sets at your office, with the ‘intelligence’ behind the call connection and routing in a Media Server out on the Internet. The on-site phones use your computer network and Internet connection to get to that Internet Server, and it’s responsible for routing calls onward to local, national, mobile and International destinations.
The alternative is to have your own on-premises VoIP Server (IP-PBX) based on your computer network at your office (e.g. 3CX). This server can support local phone-sets, as well as analogue, ISDN and SIP Trunk [line] channels in an Internet connection. SIP Trunks are virtual lines carrying phone calls within a broadband Internet connection.
You may remember ‘Centrex’ and BT’s ‘Featureline’ services. The idea behind these was to have a phone on each company desk, with a line connecting it back to a centralised exchange that provided the kind of features you’d expect to see from your own private switchboard e.g. extension to extension calling and call transfers. We used to sell a lot of PBX systems against this, simply because the typical business scenario (still the case), is that you’ll have a lot more extensions on desks, than you’ll have a need for lines to make & take calls to the outside world! It’s only in Call Centres that you’ll see a need for a similar number of trunk lines as extensions! For that reason, Centrex systems were expensive to run because customers were renting a lot more lines than they needed to support their call routing needs.
So – Here’s some reasons why Hosted VoIP may not be the ‘cheap’ option its presented as:
Hosted VoIP is presented as cheap to set-up, due to the capital cost of phones and network hardware being wrapped-up in the monthly per-extension (“per-seat”) rental. This may appear to be the case; however, in most installs we see that expenditure over the first 12 months for a Hosted VoIP system is much the same as for outright purchase of an on-site IP-PBX solution. The big difference between the systems being that in subsequent years, the running costs of the IP-PBX will be orders of magnitude lower due to the low rental cost of SIP Trunk channels, and extremely competitive call tariffs.
Some Hosted VoIP system suppliers will not take your existing computer network into account, and will simply provide phones to plug into existing network switches and use your router to get to Internet. This is ‘cheap’ because it removes any need for networking hardware … But, when voice and data need to co-exist on a network, there does need to be some fundamental engineering done to accommodate that. If your network has not been engineered to support VoIP, then you risk poor call quality and loss of customers. This is an important considerations for both Hosted and on-premises VoIP systems.
Hosted VoIP platforms provide onward connection to local, national, mobile and International services through carrier partners under service and tariff agreements with the hosting company. Therefore, the call tariffs are set by the hosting company, and you – the end user – will have no capability to choose an alternate carrier to give you better rates to frequently called destinations. IP-PBX servers can terminate multiple SIP Trunk service providers, and the IP-PBX can be configured to route calls through those SIP Trunk groups based on the number dialled e.g. if you want services from a SIP Trunk provider giving a better tariff to UK mobile numbers, then a SIP Trunk group can be added and calls commencing ’07…’ will be sent via that route. Recently, I was able to order and add a multi-channel SIP Trunk group with geographic DDI numbers to an IP-PBX platform for one of my customers, in less than one hour!
Hosted VoIP service providers must have longer-term contracts to ensure that they cover their investment in central equipment, and to cover the phones and network equipment they installed for you at the start of your contract. For this reason, you’ll see contract periods for Hosted VoIP that are three to five years, while SIP Trunk service prices are still very attractive with 12 month contracts. Despite all the hype about ‘hosted’ being the cheaper option, this means that in real terms, your Hosted VoIP solution could cost you four to five times as much as an on-premises IP-PBX at the end of that five year contract!
Some popular myths busted! …
On premises IP-PBX systems WILL support remote office and home office extensions just as well as Hosted VoIP. Having an IP-PBX server doesn’t prevent remote working.
On-premises IP-PBX systems do NOT require on site networking and software management expertise to run. Modern systems run on platforms requiring minimal hardware maintenance with full remote support facilities included – so that when needed, the system vendor can make the changes that the customer requires from anywhere that allows him or her, Internet access.
Just like hosted systems, it is quite straight-forward to carry out automated back-up of on-premises IP-PBX equipment, to provide alternate hardware if there is an IP-PBX system failure. In the case of 3CX, we could even use a Windows 10 laptop while server hardware is repaired or replaced.
IP-PBX systems are typically much better integrated with your Local Area [computer] Network, and therefore, deployment of utilities to integrate PC desk-top directory and CRM support is much easier. While this feature is low on the list for purchase of a new VoIP system, we often see this as something that users enthusiastically adopt as they get used to the facilities in their new phones!
Contact Foxhall Solutions at 01787 228 402 to discuss your best options for a cost-effective upgrade from ISDN services to VoIP …